Araminta Ross: An American Hero

"I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now I was free. There was such a glory over everything, the sun came like gold through the trees and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven."
Harriet Tubman
After crossing the Mason-Dixon Line

Born Araminta Ross, Harriet Tubman is without a doubt one of the most courageous persons and greatest Christians who ever lived. After escaping from slavery, moved by a passion that could only have been born of God, and, according to her own testimony, led by the Spirit of God Himself, Harriet hazarded both life and freedom in making nineteen, possibly twenty, trips below the Mason-Dixon Line to lead others out of slavery. After freedom was gained, she worked tirelessly to help ex-slaves learn self-sufficiency and even founded a home for elderly former slaves who had no family to care for them. While she lived, she was held in the highest esteem by black and white alike.

Harriet Tubman was a national hero as well as a great Christian, but until the 1960’s, she received no honor in the county in which she was born. A woman named Addie Clash Travers, who claimed to be a distant relative of Tubman, established Harriet Tubman Day in Bucktown, MD.  This should have been done sooner, but Tubman had two strikes against her; she was black, and she was a woman.
Booker T. Washington credits Tubman for bringing the white race and the black race together and for helping tear down the wall of prejudice between them. Tubman was not a respecter of persons, and in spite of her unquestioned purity, piety, and decency, she wasn’t a “True Woman” either.[1] There were times when her lifestyle and demeanor were decidedly “unfeminine,” and she failed miserably in the submissiveness and domesticity departments. For example, during escapes, she held absolute authority over everyone in her group, including the men. On more than one occasion she held a gun to a male head when that head endangered the lives of everyone else in the group.[2] Tubman was a fervent advocate of rights for women as well as for slaves. She never missed a “Woman’s Rights” meeting if she could help it.

Margaret Fell, Elizabeth Fry, Elizabeth Heyrick, Angelina and Sarah Grimk√©, Harriet Tubman, and a host of others were not brainwashed by “feminists.” They were the feminists. They were not “indoctrinated” by re-conceptualization meetings. They were the ones holding the re-conceptualization meetings. They were moved by compassion and by their Christian faith to labor on behalf of others. They found themselves speaking out for the rights of women only as a secondary issue. Each of these godly women influenced scores of other godly women who then added their voices to a chorus that, even today, reaches into Heaven.

The refusal of evangelical authors to acknowledge the work of godly people who advocated for women’s rights and the connection between their work and the work of Biblical feminists today is indicative of how deeply prejudice and hatred against women is ingrained in the hearts of both men and women; and it manifests itself nowhere so blatantly as within evangelical and fundamentalist Christian thought and writing.[3]

Early advocates for gender equality, so many of them devoutly Christian advocates, swam boldly against the tide of public opinion sacrificing much in securing rights that no sane contemporary woman would relinquish if given the choice to do so—“rights” which anti-feminist authors Mary Kassian, Barbara Hughes, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and Beverly LaHaye gladly avail themselves of on a daily basis. 
Those who went before us, braving ridicule and persecution, even placing themselves in physical danger, some spending years in dank prisons, then choosing to return again, without backing down from what they believed, deserve so much better than the scorn heaped upon them by complementarian authors. 
Beverly LaHaye writes that women who have been liberated from traditional “moral standards” (she actually means “roles”) are restless women, who demand selfish “rights,” and reflect little femininity.[4] Beverly LaHaye is wrong. Women who advocate for equal rights do not all desire liberation from traditional moral standards, and it is not selfish to appropriate to one’s self that which God has already given; as Shirley Taylor wrote, “Equality for women is not theirs to give, but ours to claim.”[5]

As Christians, we are woefully ignorant of our history and heritage regarding women’s rights. This is not strictly the fault of prejudiced evangelical authors. During much of the twentieth century, in our public school systems, aside from Madame Curie, Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony, and very few others, students were taught little about women's historical contributions to our culture or about women's history in general.[6] And in our Churches and Sunday Schools, if anyone knew of the contributions of godly men and women to the women's rights movements, well…, mum, was definitely the word.

And mum is still the word in many evangelical circles. But added to that is the sinful misinformation connecting the activities of early Christian reformers with the more radical, even immoral, elements of the historical and modern feminist movements. It is time to acknowledge the fact that Christians are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, both male and female, who believed and taught that women's rights and complete, practical, equality with men were biblical, valid, and urgent issues.

[1]Due to her emotional and physical frailty, a True Woman needed to be protected by a male family member…” ATQ (The American Transcendental Quarterly)Sept, 2005   by Susan M. Cruea
[2] “If anyone ever wanted to change his or her mind during the journey to freedom and return, Tubman pulled out a gun and said, "You'll be free or die a slave!" Tubman knew that if anyone turned back, it would put her and the other escaping slaves in danger of discovery, capture or even death. She became so well known for leading slaves to freedom that Tubman became known as the ‘Moses of Her People.’" [4/23/2010]

[3] Historically, the animosity of Christians against women has been astounding. In 1558, when John Knox wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, his denunciation of women was so venomous that even living in the shadow of Mary Tudor and the fires of Smithfield could not excuse the hatred he expressed. He claimed the authority by which he wrote came from God.  
[4] The Restless Woman, 1984
[6]…the history of humankind has always been written by men as if it were the history of men.” C.S. Cowles, A Woman's Place? Leadership in the Church, 1993
“Though nothing remains that represents the authentic voice of women themselves, there is a wealth of evidence showing how men sought to define women.” Roger Just, Women in Athenian Law and Life, Routledge, London and New York, 1989

The above is an excerpt from, Woman this War! Gender, Slavery and the Evangelical Caste System

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